The transverse process is a bony structure that protrudes from each side of the vertebrae, which means that there are two connected to each vertebrae of the spine. These processes are responsible for attaching muscles and ligaments to the spinal column. The general role of the structures — connecting muscles and ligaments to the spine — remains the same for each one, but the method in which it contributes to the overall functioning of the body can vary.
These structures project, or stick out, at the place on each vertebrae of the spine where the lamina meets the pedicle. The lamina consists of two flat plates of bone and is located on each vertebrae between the transverse and spinous processes. Together, they fuse to complete the top of the vertical arch. The pedicle is a pair of short processes that protrude backward on each side of the vertebrae in order to connect the body of the spinal vertebrae to the arch.
The role of the transverse process, as previously mentioned, is dependent on its location within the spinal column. The spine is divided into three general regions: the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. Each region aids with movement of a different part of the body.
The processes located in the cervical portion of the spine connect muscles and ligaments to the small vertebrae in the neck region of the spine. In this area, they have what is known as transverse foramina, which act as passageways for the arteries that lead to the brain. Those in this area also help to support and balance the head while giving the head the ability to turn from side to side.
The transverse processes are the most prominent in the thoracic vertebrae. The ribs are attached to the thoracic vertebrae, and each one sits on top of the vertebral body and rests against the tip of the process. In this instance, they helps the articulation of the ribs.
The role of these protrusions is a bit different in the lumbar region of the spine because of the absence of ribs in this area. This is in spite of the processes still being quite large in this part of the spine. In this region, they connect more powerful muscles and ligaments to the spine, and they are responsible for the more difficult movements of the body, namely those of the hips and legs.